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Peaceful place for Pell Lake

Trinity's garden helps the hungry, teaches value of going green

SHELLY BEFORT, of Lake Geneva, at work in Trinity’s community garden. Befort also is an administrative assistant at the church.

May 14, 2013 | 12:45 PM
BLOOMFIELD — Chris Roth went green a long time ago.

On the phone Friday, Roth said he and his wife have a geothermally heated, Energy Star-built home. And he and his wife grow most of the food they eat.

"My family always had a garden when I was growing up," Roth said. "I guess it's just the way I was brought up, to conserve what we have, to try to use it in the most efficient way possible."

There's also the element of healthy eating when growing your own food.

"You can't really live on junk food very well," Roth said.

Some of Roth's food was grown on his plots in the community garden at Trinity Church. But Roth, the garden coordinator, said it wasn't his idea to create the garden. He said that came from his brother-in-law, Trinity pastor Brian Metke.

"It all started back in 2008," Roth said. "Pastor Brian went on sabbatical, saw gardens like this in other congregations and approached me with the idea. … He wanted to make Trinity more green."

That fall, they plowed about an acre of land near the church that "had been fallow for approximately two years," Roth said.

Plots became open to the public during the 2009 growing season.

There are about 32, according to Roth, and each year, between 13 and 18 participants take over about 20 plots on average.

"I think it just provides people who maybe live in apartments or have a house with a real shady yard a chance to do their own gardening," he said.

Roth said the all-organic, pesticide-free garden gives people the chance to garden without having to till or perform routine maintenance.

"The work is done for the gardeners," Roth said. "We maintain the grounds and the garden. A lot of people come there and say it's almost like a park. It's a peaceful place that they enjoy being in."

Apparently, Trinity gardeners have also been helping those less fortunate.

Roth said produce from the garden plots takes up a "free will offering" table at church.

"If people need food, they can take it," he said. "Or, people can donate money."

Proceeds go to the W.C. Resource Center Food Pantry in the town of Geneva.

"Since 2010, (when) we began the free will offering table, we've been able to donate about $564 to the W.C. Resource Center," Roth said.

The community garden also provides the public with educational opportunities.

Roth said Chrissy Wen, from the UW-Extension office, has given presentations on ways to keep garden pests under control.

He said sometimes, extra plants arrive to the garden courtesy of Badger High School's greenhouse program.

And if people don't know much about gardening but want to learn, Roth said they've got them covered.

"We do try, if there's a new gardener, to match them up with a mentor," he said.

According to Roth, they definitely reinforce the "community" aspect of a community garden.

"I always hear people talking about how they're growing, what they're growing, pest control," he said. "It's really neat how people share their time and knowledge out there."

Roth said being coordinator, having to maintain the garden, is a lot of work.

But the appreciative feedback he said he has received makes it, for him, a labor of love.

"People really appreciate the garden being there," he said.

To get started with a plot in the garden, call Roth at (262) 617-1929.

Standard plots are 20-by-20 feet. Half plots of 10-by-20 also are available.

Tips from Trinity's garden coordinator

"Every year is different," Chris Roth, coordinator of Trinity's community garden, said Friday. "That's one of the biggest challenges, the weather. It's something you can't control."

But here's some tips Roth provided via email Sunday which may help in sustaining a bountiful garden.

Maintenance: "Keep up on your garden. Things like weeding and garden insect pests can get out of control if you don't stay on top of things. Spending just a little time in the garden every couple days really can make a big difference."

Mulch: "I like using grass clippings. They help hold moisture in the ground, create a dense blanket which helps act like a weed barrier, keep your shoes from getting muddy and adds to the soil when tilled in at the end of the season. If you do decide to use grass clippings, make sure that they are from a lawn that has not been treated with any chemicals like a Weed-and-Feed because residues from some of these chemicals can be detrimental to sensitive garden plants."

Tomato cages: "The best tomato cages I've used are the ones that I made myself from concrete remesh material, the wire fencing that is used to reinforce concrete.

"The 6-by-6-inch spacing of the wires allows plenty of space for you to reach through and pick the tomatoes. To construct, you simply cut a 5- to 6-foot length of remesh, bend hooks on the ends so you can form a circle out of the remesh and hook it together. You will now have a 20-inch wire tube. Cut the bottom wire off so you have 6-inch stakes to push into the ground to hold the cage upright. In most cases, you don't need any additional posts to keep the cage upright, but if your garden is located in an extremely windy location, you can bury the bottom horizontal wire below the ground or place one post inside the cage."

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